So, now that you know what you need to start stamping, lets talk ink!
Rubber stamping is a rapidly growing craft. There are numerous types of ink on the market that have been developed specifically for stamping. I will touch on a most of the major ones in this blog post. My explanations will not be all inclusive, since I’m only writing about the inks that I have experience with. However, I will cover the major categories, including the ink types you would normally see at Michaels or Joann’s.
Dye inks are water-based, fast drying, and economical. Dye inks are meant to be used on porous surfaces, like paper. They dry instantly once stamped on paper and they do not smudge or smear. Since they are dye-based, the pastel dye colors can appear lighter than pastel colors of pigment inks. Dye inks should not be used with any coloring techniques that involve liquid (e.g. watercoloring). The inks are water soluble and will run if mixed with water. Dye inks also wash off rubber stamps very easily with a damp paper towel or wet stamp scrub.
Common brands of dye inks include Stampin’ Up Classic Ink, Ranger Adirondack, and Impress inks. Colorbox Fluid Chalk is a new type of dye ink that has a chalky, muted finish and resists fading better than regular dye inks.
Techniques that can be applied with dye inks:
- Stamp and spray: Stamp an image onto a dye ink pad, then spritz it with a water bottle for a speckled effect.
- Watercoloring: Stamp an image with a permanent, non water soluble ink (e.g. StazOn). Using a watercolor brush, dip the brush tip in a drop of dye ink and proceed to color the image.
Techniques that cannot be applied with dye inks:
- Embossing: the ink dries too fast for embossing powder to stick.
Pigment inks are usually glycerin or resin based. They are thicker, richer in color, and they take long time to dry completely. Pigment inks are also known to be fade resistant, so they are preferable for projects that demand longevity (e.g. scrapbooking). While dye inks are absorbed into paper, pigment inks are not. They sit on the paper, thus requiring a longer drying time. Because pigment inks stay wet for longer, they should be embossed if stamped on coated paper, like vellum. If quick drying time is needed, pigment inks can be heat set with an embossing gun or hair dryer. Pearl and metallic inks are typically pigment inks. The inks are harder to clean from stamps, so a good stamp cleaner and scrubber should be used.
Common brands of pigment inks include: Stampin’ Up Craft Ink, Colorbox, Brilliance, Encore, and VersaColor. Some companies have designed pigment inks that dry quickly, like VersaFine by Tsukineko.
Techniques that can be applied with long drying pigment inks:
- Heat embossing: Stamp an image in pigment ink, pour embossing powder over the image, shake the excess away, and then set with a heat gun until the powder melts. Another fun technique is stamping with colored pigment ink, then embossing with clear powder. The color will be visible underneath the embossed surface.
Solvent inks are permanent inks that design for stamping on both porous and non porous surfaces. With solvent ink, almost anything is possible, including decorating glass, plastic, and metal. The projects are endless! Although solvent ink is not recommended for fabric, I regularly use my ink pads to stamp on ribbon and cloth without an issue. However, I don’t know how the images would hold up in the wash.
Solvent inks do not clean off stamps easily. Special solvent cleaner can be purchased and will effectively remove the color from the stamps.
The most common brand of solvent ink is Stazon (by Tsukineko).
Techniques that can be applied with long drying pigment inks:
- Acetate card windows with stamps: Punch a medium sized circle on your card, cut a piece of acetate (transparency sheet) that is large enough to cover the circle, then, stamp an image onto the sheet with solvent ink and adhere to the inside of the card.
Hybrid inks are a new class of inks that are a blend of both pigment and dye. They can be stamped on a variety of surfaces, including paper, wood, and fabric. They set quickly (more quickly than regular pigment inks) and they are easily removed from of stamps with a little cleaner. In my experience, hybrid inks also work a bit better with clear stamps and do not pool as much as dye inks. I’ve found that the downside with hybrid inks is that that images often lack crispness and sometimes appear blotchy in color. However, the versatility of hybrid inks makes up for the lack of definition.
The most common (and only?) brand of hybrid ink is Palette ink (sold by Papertrey Ink).
Techniques that can be applied with hybrid inks:
- Stamping on fabric: Decorate a baby onsie by tapping a rubber stamp on a hybrid ink pad and pressing the image onto the shirt. Heat set with an iron for a quick and easy gift.
VersaMark ink is a watermark/resist ink, that’s not really an ink at all. It’s completely clear, but when stamped onto colored card stock (uncoated paper only), it will leave a slightly darker watermark image. VersaMark can be used with a variety of techniques, including coloring with pastels, embossing, and resisting. Versamark is a definite must-have in every stamper’s collection.
Techniques that can be applied with VersaMark ink:
- Embossing with colored embossing powder: Tap image onto Versamark pad, stamp on paper, and cover with embossing powder. Remove excess powder and heat set with an embossing gun.
- Coloring with pastels: Tap image onto VersaMark pad and stamp on paper. Taake a sponge dauber (or cotton ball), dip it into colored pastel chalk, and sponge over the image. The chalk powder will stick to the Versamark ink creating a light, pastel image.
What is the Best Ink Type?
So, naturally, the next question is: what inks should you buy? The answer is: it all depends what kind of stamping you want to do. Below, I will share with you what is in my collection, and why.
90% of my ink collection is comprised of dye inks. I use these more frequently than any other ink because I work mostly with paper crafts. I like inks that dry fast without smudging so that I can make my cards quickly. With dye inks, the cleanup is quick easy and they are less expensive than pigment inks. I own over 60 Stampin’ Up dye ink pads in my collection! The only drawback is that I find that dye inks do not work well with clear, photopolymer stamps. The ink pools and the images stamp unevenly. However, clear stamps often have this problem with many types of inks, so I always prefer using red rubber stamps.
I own a handful pigment pads in lighter shades (like pastels and whites) and metallic colors. The lighter shades are richer and deeper than dyes. The main reason I don’t use regularly use pigment inks is that they take a long time to completely dry (sometimes hours). I’ve ruined numerous cards with pigment ink because I’ve smudged them before they dried. Although pigment inks can be heat set, I’m too lazy to do this extra step.
I also have three pads of Stazon solvent ink pads that I use to decorate plastics, like containers and transparency sheets. I also use Stazon when I watercolor an image because the ink is permanent and will not bleed (see my watercolor video from two days ago).
I own a handful of hybrid ink pads that I use once in a while. These pads are great for making fabric gifts, like stamped aprons, totes, or potholders. I don’t typically like using hybrid ink to stamp on paper because I find that hybrid ink is a little blotchy and I like my images to be crisp and even.
If you want to test out different types of inks, some brands make their inks available in small cube samples (e.g. SU Stampin’ Spots to the left). For my ink collection, I purchase all my everyday dye stamp pads in regular large sizes and stock up on the small cubes sizes for my craft and metallic inks, since I don’t use them as regularly.
Well, I hope my lengthy explanations were helpful! If you have any questions, leave them below and I will answer them as soon as I can. (I can’t access my blog at work, boo!)